Sharing the Christian Gospel (Good News!) of salvation from sin and God’s gift of eternal life is both a tremendous privilege and a sobering responsibility. Charles Spurgeon kept the faithful proclamation of the Gospel front and center throughout his fruitful ministry career. His outlook on sharing the Gospel is worthy of our consideration and emulation.
One evening in the late autumn Spurgeon was returning from a speaking engagement. The hansom cab in which he was riding made its way along the level ground at the base of London’s steep Herne Hill ridge which he needed to ascend.
Presently he saw a light before him, and as he came near the hill he watched that light gradually go up the ascent, leaving a train of stars behind it. Eventually the line of newborn lights reached from the foot of the hill to its summit. Spurgeon was witnessing the work of a lamplighter whom he could not see in the darkness. In those days London’s streetlights burned gas but still had to be lit individually.
Spurgeon afterward reflected on what he had seen: “I did not see the lamplighter. I do not know his name, nor his age, nor his residence. But I saw the lights which he had kindled, and these remained when he himself had gone his way.
“As I rode along I thought to myself, ‘How earnestly do I wish that my life may be spent in lighting one soul after another with the sacred flame of eternal life! I would myself be as much as possible unseen while at my work, and would vanish into eternal brilliance above when my work is done.’ ”
Charles Spurgeon lived with a weighty sense of the eternal peril of the unconverted and of his responsibility to point them to Christ. He was also deeply concerned for those who might wrongly suppose themselves to be Christians.
During a period of sore illness he traveled to Marseilles, France, to rest. He was suffering from gout of which he once wrote: “Lucian says, ‘I thought a cobra had bitten me and filled my veins with poison. But it was worse, it was gout.’ That was written from experience, I know.”
Arriving at his hotel in Marseilles, Spurgeon asked for a fire to warm his room and help him bear his pain. When the porter came, he brought vine branches with which to kindle the fire. As the branches began to burn, Spurgeon cried out in agony. His distress at that moment, however, was psychological and spiritual rather than physical. He was thinking of Christ’s teaching in John 15:6 concerning the destiny of fruitless branches of the Vine, how they are cast out and burned.
In a sermon preached several years before his death, Spurgeon attempted to picture the scene that he desired to exist at his own funeral. He spoke of a concourse of people in the streets and of the discussion that would be taking place among them:
“What are all these people waiting for?”
“Do you not know? He is to be buried today.”
“And who is that?”
“It is Spurgeon.”
“What! The man that preached at the Tabernacle?”
“Yes; he is to be buried today.”
Continued Spurgeon: “That will happen very soon. And when you see my coffin carried to the silent grave, I should like every one of you, whether converted or not, to be constrained to say, ‘He did earnestly urge us, in plain and simple language, not to put off the consideration of eternal things. He did entreat us to look to Christ. Now he is gone, our blood is not at his door if we perish.’ ”
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You’ll find many other enjoyable and beneficial incidents from the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon in my book Timeless Stories, God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians. Two quality readable Spurgeon biographies are: Arnold Dallimore’s Spurgeon, A New Biography (Banner of Truth, 1987); W. Y. Fullerton’s Charles H. Spurgeon, London’s Most Popular Preacher (Moody, 1980). The latter work is currently out of print but is well-worth purchasing through used book sources at a reasonable rate.